Sometimes, the more you compromise, the more you lose yourself. Being the bigger person doesn’t always mean being the one to back down or shut up. Sometimes you need to dig your feet in and be stubborn.
Sometimes, it’s better to be respected by the ones you care about than wanted by them. Keeping yourself sometimes means losing some luxuries of comfort. But it’s worth it in the end to know that you’ve held fast.
This is all becoming clear to me now, and it’s hard but I’m grateful.
some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I’ll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they’ll find me there.
it’s Cherub, they’ll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
When we got to the office of the Memorial headstone shop, we were greeted by Bruce, a smallish man, salt and pepper hair and scuffed overalls. He looked vaguely Native, especially around his eyes, and had that way of speaking through the teeth with minimal movement around the mouth that’s a particularly Native trait. He made a great point of telling us how much he loved skiing with his wife in the winter, and I was dissapointed that, aside from his decidedly curious choice of profession, he came across as generally unremarkable.
It took maybe forty minutes to go over all the details of the headstone; size, colour, font, dates, epitaph, engravings, and payment. It felt, I imagine, much like buying a house would, going over so many details and methods of payment.
While my mother, grandmother and two younger sisters were working out all the finalities, I wandered back to the tiny foyer to look through the photo albums I had seen on the way in.
There were shelves of them, labeled on the spines alphabetically, all filled with pictures of tombstones that Bruce and his company had done over the years. It occurred to me partway through “N-Re” exactly what had been documented in those albums. It reminded me of collections of post-mortem photos from the Victorian era I’d seen not long before – children posed restfully in their beds, or propped up as if they were alive, holding dolls and pens and scissors – women sitting in chairs, looking very much alive except for an odd tilt of the head and a vacancy in they eyes. These headstone photos were just another facet of a culture with a millennium-spanning obsession with death and anything that goes along with it.
Never one to leave the level of macabre-ness as is, I took a couple of photos from the album and stuck them in my bag – to go into a box I keep on my bedside table at home, which is filled with odd things that remind me of certain days – a beer bottle cap from a concert, a ticket stub from a movie date, a piece of sea-glass, and earring, a pilfered photo of a headstone. It seemed a fitting addition.
When everything was settled, my grandmother’s checkbook was $800 poorer, and we would within the following two weeks be in possession of a slab of granite 18 by 20″ that would mark a grave site ($300) that holds the ashes of my father (cremation: $3000).
It struck me as an awful lot of money to be spending on a dead person.